Foreign trade. In our foreign commerce we are faced with a nonfulfillment of export and import plans due to the following: delays in contracts; difficulties in securing ships to move our import and export cargo; a critical situation in loading and unloading at the ports.
The aforementioned has been responsible for the following: problems in the transportation of equipment coming from Europe; delays in the importation of raw materials and foodstuffs; ships delayed in port. Market difficulties in the convertible currency area with regard to the buying of wood pulp continue to affect the production of containers. That is, even with ready cash wood pulp is difficult to obtain. Although purchases for 1971 and 1972 have been authorized, we have yet to find the necessary supply.
Situation at ports of entry and internal transportation. The volume of dry cargo handled in our ports from January to April is 20 percent over the corresponding period for 1969. The number of ships in our ports is increasing and this situation will become more pronounced in the present month of July when 450,000 tons of cargo are expected—a greater volume than in previous months. From March to the present moment the aecumulation of cargo in our ports has increased from 100,000 to 140,000 tons on the average.
The mechanization program now being carried out should have a favorable influence on the solution of operational difficulties. Special attention must be given to the buying, building, and reconditioning of barges and tugs to ensure the shipments of sugar and molasses contemplated in export plans for 1971. To this must be added dredging, reconditioning, and building of important port facilities.
Internal transportation. Difficulties have been encountered in highways as well as railroad transportation. These difficulties have been determined partly by the priority given to the transportation of sugar cane and by-products, and partly by a lack of spare parts. The result has been a decrease in the number of available vehicles, which has led to operational problems and seriously interfered with economic activities during the period.
From January to April of this year there was a 26 percent increase over the corresponding period last year in the volume of freight hauled by rail. During this period sixty locomotives (27 percent of the total number) were used for the transportation of cane. In transportation by truck the main difficulties, have been due to the lack of spare parts and the high level of absenteeism, which has been one of the highest in recent years.
The following were the most important difficulties caused by internal transportation problems: delays in receiving trains with cattle from Camagüey and Las Villas, which resulted in a loss of weight in the cattle; nonfulfillment of the lard distribution plan and nonfulfillment of the plan for bringing milk bottles to the provinces. Practically all the beer, milk, and other bottles which are not imported are produced in the western part of the country, as is all the nonimported cloth. This requires shipping all this material east. Bottles for all the beer made in Oriente are produced in the western part of the country, in Havana.
Industrial goods pile up in the provincial warehouse of the Ministry of Domestic Trade in Havana. The plan for transportation of raw materials used for soaps and detergents, as well as the finished product, was not fulfilled. The transportation of silica sand for the production of cement and bottles, the transportation of steel bars, the transportation of fodder for the animals on state farms, and the transportation of bagasse for the paper factories in Las Villas were insufficient. There was a work stoppage in the nail factory in Santiago de Cuba due to a lack in the transportation of raw materials; and the national fertilizer production plan was not met because of low extraction of the finished product. There was a 36 percent drop in the number of railroad passengers, compared with 1969 in the January-May period, caused by the transfer of locomotives to the sugar harvest and the withdrawal of coaches from circulation due to lack of spare parts.
We have outlined the main difficulties in agriculture and industry. And the list, of course, is not complete.
There are worse difficulties—which have been growing worse for some time—in certain services to the population such as laundries. They are part of the limitations we have discussed here, and there are others we haven’t mentioned.
This statistical outline contains only a part of the cause. We must say that inefficiency, the subjective factor, is partly to blame for these problems.
There are objective difficulties. Some of them have been pointed out. But we aren’t here to discuss the objective difficulties. We must discuss the concrete problem, and man must contribute what nature or our means and resources have not been able to provide. It depends on man. Men are playing a key role here and especially the men in leadership positions. [Applause]
We are going to begin, in the first place, by pointing out the responsibility which all of us, and I in particular, have for these problems. I am in no way trying to pin the blame on anyone not in the revolutionary leadership and myself. [Applause] Unfortunately, this self-criticism cannot be accompanied by other logical solutions. It would be better to tell the people to look for somebody else. [Shouts of “No!”] It would be better, but it would be hypocritical on our part.
I believe that we, the leaders of this Revolution, have cost the people too much in our process of learning. And, unfortunately, our problem—not when it is a case of the Revolution; the people can replace us whenever they wish—right now if you so desire! [Shouts of “No!” and “Fidel! Fidel! Fidel!”] One of our most difficult problems—and we are paying for it dearly—is our heritage of ignorance.
When we spoke of illiterates we didn’t include ourselves among the illiterates, or even among the semiliterates. We could best be classified as ignorant. And we were ignorant—almost without exception (and I, of course, am not the exception)—all of us. The problem is even worse. Signs of illiteracy or semiliteracy can be found in many men in positions of responsibility and one of our most serious problems is the one we face when we go looking for the man to fit the job.
A few days ago, gathered in Céspedes Park in Santiago de Cuba, after having visited several factories one by one and having talked with thousands of people, we discussed the problems of each and every one of the industries in detail.
There was a 50,000-ton drop in the production of the Titán Cement Factory because its storage areas were full, while in the city of Santiago de Cuba—as in the other cities of the country—there was a tremendous demand for cement to repair homes.
There was a 6,000-ton drop in the production of the flour mill—a factory which had been enlarged—because the flour which had been produced wasn’t removed and the factory had to shut down, which meant that a town might be left without bread, for lack of flour. And we had the wheat to produce the flour, and the workers and machines. The harvest wasn’t to blame; the harvest resulted in some problems, but not all. I am giving you a few examples.
With the best of intentions, a concentration of transportation was carried out which proved to be excessive. These plants had to depend on an operative base.
There were problems in the cement industry with quarry equipment. We spent hours talking with the equipment operators about a series of specifications, calling on their experience and hearing their ideas so that, given the resources which will enter the country this year and those already available…. All the complementary equipment, plus a surplus to put the factory at peak capacity is on its way to the Titán Factory. Quarries require excess capacity, since an attempt to save can result in underutilization of the investment of millions of pesos in the industry and the work of hundreds of workers.
We reviewed the problems of the Hatuey brewery, the beer and malt beverage factory. Transportation is a serious problem there. Oriente turns out beer and malt beverage for internal consumption. The bottles come from this part of the country: there are delays in transportation and even in the return of used bottles. Since many of these products were distributed through grocery stores and not through public centers the bottles delayed longer in returning here and the problem grew worse. In Santiago de Cuba 5,000 or 6,000 cases were being produced; there was a drop of 300,000 cases a month: 7,500,000 bottles of beer and malt beverage which could have been consumed by the people during these months.
We analyzed the problem and realized the need for new methods, such as distribution in tank trucks. This method is already in use in some places. These tanks have a refrigerating coil and compressor and one-half horsepower for storing one hundred cases of beer or malt beverage that can be transported in a six-ton truck with a 3,000-quart tank, and even a bit more. A Zil 130 can take the equivalent of 1,000 cases on a single trip in this form.
Today we can take beer in tanks to workers’ dining rooms, recreation centers, and schools, saving the bottles, cases, and all those other things. Although, logically enough, a certain amount must be bottled for home consumption. But production increase at that factory can be still further stepped up.
I asked Comrade Risquet [Minister of Labor] to go there with the comrade Minister in charge of the Food Ministry to look into expansion possibilities. We have the raw materials: the barley, malt, even the rice, which is being used in a proportion of 30 percent in beer production with excellent results in quality. In the malts, in addition to the barley, rice, and sugar. Beer, of course, requires hops.
With relatively few investments the production of beer and malt beverages can be increased by 50 percent in Santiago de Cuba.
And today we don’t produce for profit; we produce for the people. We produce to satisfy the needs of the people. And if this production can be increased so that more workers, students, youths, and families can drink more malts and beer, with a relatively minor investment; if we can distribute them, why not do so?
We visited many centers. The repair shops…. There are problems at the Santiago Bus Terminal with the maintenance of the Skoda buses. There are 103 buses in Santiago and almost thirty-five in service for a city with a population of almost 200,000. With the arrival of the interprovincial Leyland buses, it will be possible to release other buses which should be in Santiago de Cuba on or about the fifteenth of August.